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Our Story

Parkgate House was founded by our Principal, Catherine Shanley, in 1987, and it remains one of the few independently owned and family-run schools in London.  

Miss Shanley writes: 

“The special Parkgate spirit that so many of our families refer to originates from my vision to create a nursery and prep school where every child deserves the very best teacher from the moment their education begins.  Being disappointed with the quality of the education on offer at the time, I was inspired to set up my own nursery and prep school to ensure that every child was able to experience the magic and joy of childhood, whilst also making outstanding academic progress.  I knew that the key to success was to recruit the very best people, and whilst the world has evolved significantly since the 1980s, research continues to show that the impact of teacher quality outweighs the impact of any other educational programme or policy.  Our teachers are very proud to work at Parkgate House, and every member of staff is chosen because they meet our bespoke criteria, which enables us to provide the best possible education for your child.  All teachers are highly qualified and our programme of continuing professional development ensures that teaching and learning practices are innovative and research-led, whilst building on the traditional aspects of my original vision for an outstanding education.  As a child, I had heard about the philosophy of Maria Montessori from my mother, and during my training this child-centred philosophy really resonated with me.  However, I knew that I needed to develop this to create my own bespoke educational philosophy to ensure that children were able to thrive not only in the Early Years, but throughout their whole school journey.  Our excellent 11+ results are testament to the outstanding quality of a Parkgate education, and so too are our Prep 6 pupils, who leave Parkgate as well-rounded individuals, confidently able to navigate new challenges and make their mark on the world.” 

We are lucky to be housed in a wonderful Georgian Grade II listed building, which has been fully modernised inside whilst also maintaining its historic character outside.  Our building and its adjacent coach house date back to 1819 and were built by Roger Lee, variously described as a ship owner and ship builder and a Lloyd’s underwriter.  The building was originally known as Springwell House, due to the natural springs nearby and the well on Clapham Common opposite the building.  Historian Chris Abbott states “Life in Clapham was very different… the streets were filled with the clatter of horses’ hooves and the cries of children”.  Springwell House became the Battersea and Clapham War Hospital Supply Depot during the First World War, and it later became Springwell House Open Air School.  Long before COVID-19, 1930s London had to contend with the deadly spread of TB, and Springwell House Open Air School by its very name had classrooms open to the elements.  The idea was that fresh air would circulate and discourage nasty bugs and germs from spreading and encourage a general sense of health and fitness among the children.  Of course, this remains important to us today, and our children enjoy Outdoor Learning sessions on the Common as part of our dynamic curriculum.  Although snow and rain are now kept firmly outside the classroom, the mud and nature walks on Clapham Common remain popular with today’s children!  Springwell House became one of the first schools in London to take children on trips to the countryside or the seaside, and of course similar trips are enjoyed by Parkgate House pupils today, although we also enjoy trips to London’s many landmarks and attractions, such as the Tower of London, Kew Gardens and the Tate Modern.  We are proud of our rich heritage and our place in the Clapham community. 

“There are no words to express our gratitude for what Parkgate has given our family… our children have had the happiest times at school and have grown in confidence and made lifetime friendships. We want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for giving our children the most wonderful memories… a big thank you for making this school such a special and incredible place filled with joy, care and talent.”

Parkgate parent 
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